On Monday, we visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in the southeast corner of Tennessee and the northwest corner of North Carolina, the park encompasses over 500,000 acres, and is the most visited National Park in the nation. One visit and we could see why!
Our first stop was at the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center in the north side of the park.
Where we picked up Jr. Ranger books. The park has 4 different books, each for different ages: 5 and 6, 7 -8, 9 & 10, and 11 to 12. The books can be purchased for $2.50 each in the nice, and somewhat extensive (for a National Park) gift shop, where we also found a park bumper sticker!After we picked up the Jr. Ranger books, we walked through the small museum that contains quite af ew displays of the animals and plants that are found in the park… Then we were off to take a drive and explore the park. There are tons of gorgeous waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park… We drove west from the visitor’s center, along a lovely paved road that follows a stream… We checked out the park campground that is located closest to Sugarlands, and found a few spots that we could fit in. We talked about whether to pull the toy hauler in that same day, but decided that since we already had plans for the next day, a relaxing camping trip to SMNP would have to wait until next year. Kind of a bummer, because this park is incredibly beautiful and the campground is right along the river – just our kind of camping!
Doing those Jr. Ranger books is a lot of work… We drove down to Cade’s Mill…Where a volunteer was doing a program, and had a touch table full of pelts… Where even my littles knew what each one was… There is an old homestead here… and the mill… where they actually have grains grinding to show everyone how it works. They were milling corn the day we were there, and they sell the ground cornmeal and/or flour… There were other outbuildings. Beth and I decided that the boys would find this little cabin quite comfortable… The little girls spent quite a bit of time checking out this little building… but I didn’t have to worry about them going inside with this little guy peeking out between the floorboards…There is a blacksmith shop that does programs during the summer… During the scenic loop drive, we saw over a dozen turkey, some of which were strutting. There were several old houses and cabins along the drive… There are usually parking areas so you can get out and explore the old buildings… More waterfalls… When we finally got back to the visitor’s center, we took a walk along this little stream… to get to Cataract Falls…Not much of a baby anymore, he insisted on walking much of the way… We love to walk along the streams here – there is moss all over the rocks near the water’s edge.
We can see why the Great Smoky Mountains host millions of visitors each year – it is stunningly beautiful here, and we can’t wait to come back and stay for a bit!